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58 | Public Interest Design, Past & Future

John Cary is an American connector, writer, speaker and curator focused on social change, with an emphasis on design and philanthropy. His career in public interest design dates back twenty years and he has consistently advocated for more socially minded design since his days as a student. John frequently curates and hosts events for TED, The Aspen Institute, and other entities. He is a philanthropic advisor to foundations and non-profits around the world.

58 | Public Interest Design, Past & Future

Cary is the cofounder of ArchVoices as well as being the first executive director of the non-profit Public Architecture and winner of the 2008 Rome Prize.

Most recently, John is a co-founder of FRESH Speakers, Inc., a next generation speakers bureau, focused on diversifying thought leadership. FRESH Speakers was founded as a reaction against the tendency for conferences and discussion panels within the design world to lean overwhelmingly white, and male. The four co-founders curate, support and promote a diverse group of voices, seeking the next generation of world thought leadership.

Cary is the author of two books: The Power of Pro Bono: 40 Stories About Design for the Public Good by Architects and Their Clients by Metropolis Books and Design for Good: A New Era of Architecture for Everyone by Island Press. Both books are discerned surveys which highlight stories of public interest design endeavors, notably from the perspectives of clients and users.

Cary’s diverse initiatives remain unified by an idea that design can be mobilized as a force for public good. We were able to speak with Cary about the future of public interest design and get his insights into how to make moves in an uncertain time.


Social Design Insights would like to thank all those who make our weekly show possible: Baruch Zeichner, our Producer and Sound Engineer, Donna Read, for producing our video content, and Leah Freidenrich, Director of the Curry Stone Foundation. Our theme music for 2018 is "Alright With Me" by Reggie Young from his album "Young Street." The break music is "Once in a Lifetime" by Talking Heads from their album "Speaking in Tongues."